NTN Culture & Tourism From Europe to Africa

7 MOST IMPORTANT PLACES TO VISIT IN THE WORLD; CROSS RIVER STATE, NIGERIA (WEST AFRICA).

Cross River State in Nigeria boasts of one of the best and fascinating tourist centres in West Africa. It is a great place to go for your next vacation, and also a place to retire due to the friendliness of the local people and the natural vistas of the state.

Cross River State was created out of the old South Eastern State of Nigeria in 1976 – and Akwa Ibom State was carved out of the state in 1987. With a population of 2.89 million according to a 2009 estimate, Cross River State covers a total of 20,156 sq km land area, and bordered to the west by Abia States, to the east by Cameroon, to the south by Akwa Ibom and the Atlantic Ocean. The state is divided into eighteen local government areas which include Abi, Akamkpa, Akpabuyo, Bekwara, Biase, Boki, Calabar Municipal, Calabar-South, Etung, Ikom, Obanliku, Obubra, Obudu, Odukpani, Ogoja, Ugep-north, Yakurr, and Yala.

While there are hundreds of places to go in the state, the following are the top seven destinations in Cross River State:

1. A visit to 40 million swallow birds from Europe to Africa over-run

Ebrabaken in Boje, Boki Local Council of Cross River State. October -April of each Year.  About 40 million swallows, a special bird in Europe that gives indication on global warming, have landed in Nigeria. The birds which started arriving Nigeria with the beginning of the dry season come to roost in Ebrabaken in Boje, Boki Local Council of Cross River State. Yearly, due to seasonal changes, the birds come to Boje to roost and this year’s population is said to be the biggest in the history of swallow birds’ migration from Europe into Africa. The beautiful black and white birds according to experts start to migrate in October to Boje and stay throughout the dry season (October – April) before going back to Europe.

Before now, the locals and poachers posed great danger to the birds but an ornithologist with the National Wildlife Institute in Bologna, Italy, Mr. Pierfrancesco Micheconi said ‘today, I want to say that the local people have lots to sacrifice. They don’t eat the swallows again. Before, they kill up to 200,000 of the swallows but now, they don’t kill them again”. Micheconi who has been studying swallow birds since 1987, said Boje in Nigeria has the biggest swallow route to Africa were millions come to sleep. “We have monitor African countries and Boje is the biggest. Our job is to cage them and put them one ring in the leg for identification. “We study them at evenings and mornings. They feed on mosquitoes and sun flies at night; all of them after traveling a distance of about 200 kilometres in search of food and where to bath, come to sleep at the hills in the elephant grass and this set is about 40 million and it is impressive”.

For years the swallows which come from Belgium, Holland, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and others to Nigeria in dry season according to the expert, “always prefer the elephant grass at Boje even though there are other elephant grasses elsewhere and studies so far have not shown why they are attracted there”. However, Micheconi noted that they have continued to study the birds “and our aim is to see where they pass and come back, to see if their population is increasing or not as swallow birds is a very important ideological indicator and can give indications on global warming”. In Europe, he said the sighting of swallows signifies the end of winter and these birds bring luck. Then the butterflies and flowers will come and they bring spring. He said the birds could attract large number of tourists as “many Europeans like to come to Boje and view millions of these birds perching and flying away or even coming to roost in the elephant grass. The birds have become tourists’ attraction and the problem of accommodation for tourists in Boje is being worked on with all seriousness, providing African Style luxurious tourist quarters and structures that can accommodate as many as 1000 tourist at ago
These birds have been coming to Boje for many years unannounced until it was reported in The Guardian in the early nineties. These swallows fly from the UK to South Africa and then back again with a stopover in Ebakken-Boje, Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State in South South Nigeria. The birds stop at Ebakke-Boje to rest and continue their journey. The Italian Swallows according to conservationists, come to Nigeria early and leave back to Italy while the British Swallows come to Nigeria later through South Africa and back to Britain. Their arrival in Britain from Africa heralds the end of the cold season and the British are always happy for it.
Before now, the locals and poachers posed great danger to the birds but an ornithologist with the National Wildlife Institute in Bologna, Italy, Mr. Pierfrancesco Micheconi said ‘today, I want to say that the local people have lots to sacrifice. They don’t eat the swallows again. Before, they kill up to 200,000 of the swallows but now, they don’t kill them again”. Micheconi who has been studying swallow birds since 1987, said Boje in Nigeria has the biggest swallow route to Africa were millions come to sleep. “We have monitor African countries and Boje is the biggest. Our job is to cage them and put them one ring in the leg for identification. “We study them at evenings and mornings. They feed on mosquitoes and sun flies at night; all of them after traveling a distance of about 200 kilometres in search of food and where to bath, come to sleep at the hills in the elephant grass and this set is about 40 million and it is impressive”.
In the past when the birds arrive, the natives will hunt it for meat until conservationists intervened and this intervention has eventually produced the first ever mist netting and ringing of barn swallows by local communities at Ebakken-Boje, Cross River. The Country Director, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Mr. Andrew Dunn said “the ringing and netting in the state was carried out from March18-22, 2013 by four local ringers and supervised by WCS”. Mr. Bassey Emmanuel of the WCS was the team leader.

He said, “the exercise included four dawn and four dusk capture sessions at a nocturnal roost site at Ebakken-Boje, on the edge of Afi Mountain Wildlife sanctuary, Cross River State, Nigeria. A total of 2,570 barn swallows were ringed. Nine barn swallows previously ringed in six European countries (Italy, Spain, Holland, France, Croatia and UK) were recovered. This is the first time that a swallow ringed in the UK has been recovered and released at this site. The ringing exercise was funded by Professor Nicola Saino of the University of Milan and Pierfrancesco Micheloni of ISPRA, Bologna and supervised by WCS”.

According to him, the objective of the ringing and netting is to continue the swallow ringing activity Mr. P. Micheloni established, provide refresher training for local ringers within the Ebakken community and sample the swallow roost at a different period of the year (normally only sampled in January). He said this ringing and netting programme will be of immensed benefits to the communities and the state as employment would be provided and the state can establish a tourism site as for a long time the State’s Tourism Bureau has been proposing on this. But with this programme now on ground, he said the tourism site can be developed attracting large number of tourists who will come in and pay entry fee to the community as it is done in Rwanda and some other tourism sites.
To achieve this, Dunn suggested that the Cross River Tourism Bureau should collaborate more with the Ebakken community to put in place necessary facilities at the roost such as eco-lodge, and standard entry fee, to boost the tourism potential of the area and there should be more training on advance ringing procedures for the Boje ringing team. He stated that the ringing exercise lasted from 18th to 22nd March 2013, with 8 ringing sessions, (4 dawn and 4 dusk capture sessions) and “in all 2,570 barn swallows were captured using the mist nets and ringed. During the exercise we recovered nine barn swallows previously ringed in six European countries. The recoveries were subjected to a few standard morphological observations such as recording the progress of molt of the wing feathers, observe subcutaneous fat deposit and others. We also captured and released resident and migratory birds such as the blue-headed dove, bee-eater, hawk, weaver birds and willow warbler”. According to him, “barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) are long-distance swift flying migratory birds. They are small and aerially insectivorous. They spend the autumn in Europe breeding and winter in sub-Saharan Africa. The barn swallows start arriving in Africa in September and return to Europe in April, they undergo a single annual molt, mostly in the African winter period. One of the places barn swallows spend their winter in Africa is a nocturnal roost in Ebakken (Boje) community in Boki LGA of Cross River State, Nigeria. Ebakken is an agrarian forested rural community; the community is also blessed with patches of hilly grassland which serves as a nocturnal swallow roost.
“The roost is managed by the Ebakken community, this roost host millions of barn swallows each winter period (dry season in Nigeria), available records show that most of the barn swallows are from western and central European countries. Pierfrancesco Micheloni has been ringing barn swallows at this roost for Istituto Superiore per la Protezione la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA) in conjunction with Ozzano ringing station of Bologna, Italy for about fifteen years, gathering useful scientific data for research purposes. In collaboration with WCS, Ebakken community and other relevant conservation stakeholders, Mr. Micheloni trained a team of local ringers to build local capacity, promote the conservation of the site and consolidate the scientific data collection at the site”.

2. Calabar Carnival Festival

Calabar Carnival festival in Nigeria, also tagged ” Africa’s Biggest Street Party”, was created as part of the vision of making the Cross River State in Nigeria, the number one tourist destination for Nigerians and tourists all over the world. The Festival is held every December 24th-27th in Calabar, the state capital with visitors in attendance from all over the world.

3. Obudu Mountain Resort

Located on Nigeria’s southeastern frontier, the Cross River landscape descends precipitously from the Oban Obudu rugged foothills (1000 2000m) of the Cameroun Mountains on the east, into the Cross River Plains (30m) to the west, and down to the Bight of Bonny coastal plains to the south, Coastal mangrove wetlands interlaced with creeks, virgin rainforest on the Oban Obudu hills, Montane parkland on the Obudu Plateau, and derived Savannah on the Cross River Plain, are all parts of the Cross River State vegetation and scenery.
4. Agbokim Waterfalls Located about 17 kilometres from the Ikom Local Government Area of the state, the Agbokim waterfall consists of seven streams cascading over a steep cliff, resulting in a seven-faced waterfall which levels out into the tropical rainforest. Surrounded by a lush greenery, steep hills, and valleys, the Agbokim waterfall is a captivating and alluring place to visit with family during a vacation to Cross River.

5. Tinapa Business & Leisure Resort

Located close to the Calabar River, Tinapa is a four-phased development promoted by the Cross River State Government, under a Private Public Partnership (PPP), and very close to Calabar Free Trade Zone. It is planned to be a business and leisure resort where you can engage in quality business, retail and wholesale trades, operate a product warehouse, as well as enjoy quality leisure and entertainments. It has an open exhibition area for trade exhibitions and other events, a movie production studio commonly referred to as “Studio Tinapa,” an entertainment strip that comprise a casino, an Eight-Screen Cinema, a children’s arcade, restaurants and a mini amphitheater, a night club and pubs.

6. Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary

The Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary is a home to rare chimpanzees, endangered gorillas, and drill monkeys and listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA) for hosting and watching the largest migration of swallow roosts on the African continent. The mountain was then part of the Afi River Forest Reserve (383 sq km), a production forest reserve for which logging concessions had been issued.

7. Kwa Falls

The Kwa Falls is located in Anegeje village in Akamkpa LGA of Cross River State and an extension of the Kwa River. Its sparkling waters cascades down basement rocks situated at the Oban side of the Cross River National Park. There are 234 steps made to the Kwa Falls, and the waterfall flows into a canopy of the tropical rainforest and mangrove forest that is rich in Mahogany, Ebony, and Spruce trees in a fascinating landscape.
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